Italian word of the day: ‘Piega’

When life takes a turn, this word’s here for you.

Italian word of the day: 'Piega'
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Taken at face value, piega is a simple word that means a fold or a crease, like you find in fabric or paper. When used in its literal sense, you’ll most often see it in verb form.

– Fare attenzione a non piegare il cavo.
– Take care not to bend the cable.

– Vieni qua e piega questi vestisti.
– Come here and fold these clothes.

When used as a noun, however, piega often refers to unexpected events leading you down a different path than the one you thought you were on.

The new path might be worse.

– Le cose stanno prendendo una brutta piega.
– Things are taking a bad turn.

Or better.

– Sto aspettando che la mia vita prenda la giusta piega.
– I’m waiting for my life to kick into the right gear.

– La sua salute ha preso una piega migliore.
– Her health’s taken a turn for the better.

Or just different.

–  Questa settimana ha preso una piega diversa.
– This week’s taken a different turn.

La mia festa ha assunto una piega imprevista.
– My party’s gone in an unexpected direction.

There’s at least one other use, however, for this versatile word.

If a piega is a fault or an imperfection, an idea or a plan *without* a piega is airtight, or faultless.

The phrasing of this in Italian is non fa una piega – literally, something that “makes no fault” or, you might say, “doesn’t put a foot wrong”.

– Il loro ragionamento non faceva una piega.
– Their logic couldn’t be faulted.

– Il suo alibi non fa una piega.
– Her alibi’s airtight.

Do you have a favourite Italian word you'd like us to feature? If so, please email our editor Jessica Phelan with your suggestion.


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Italian expression of the day: ‘Conosco i miei polli’

We know what we're dealing with with this Italian phrase.

Italian expression of the day: 'Conosco i miei polli'

You don’t have to be a poultry farmer to go around telling people ‘conosco i miei polli’ – literally, ‘I know my chickens’ – in Italian.

There’s no perfect translation, but it means something along the lines of ‘I know who I’m dealing with/ what they can get up to/ what they’re like’; I know what to expect from them, for better or worse.

It usually implies slightly mischievously that the people or person being discussed could be troublemakers, and that the speaker has the necessary knowledge to deal with them effectively.

You might think of it as ‘I know what those little devils/rascals are like’ if referring to naughty children, or ‘I know how those jokers/b******s operate’ if discussing petty officials or difficult colleagues.

Saranno tornati entro la mattinata; fidati, conosco i miei polli.
They’ll be back by morning; trust me, I know what I’m talking about.

Conosco i miei polli; vedrete che arriveranno alla riunione con mezz’ora di ritardo e daranno la colpa al traffico.
I know them: you’ll see, they’ll get to the meeting half an hour late and blame it on the traffic.

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According to at least one source, the full original phrase is ‘conosco i miei polli alla calzetta‘, or ‘I know my chickens by their stockings’.

It refers back to a time when chickens roamed the streets or shared courtyards freely.

So they didn’t get mixed up, each bird had a little scrap of coloured cloth tied around their foot that allowed each owner to quickly spot their chicken.

The next time you’re dealing with some tricky characters, you’ll know just what to say.

Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.